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LII In the News — This Is What We Do

While it’s not a statistic we actively track, none of us here can remember a time that individual statutes and regulations dominated the list of our most visited pages like they have for the past few weeks. Since January 20th, 8 USC 1182, 1187 & 1152 (all immigration statutes), 50 USC 3021 (National Security Council), and 5 CFR 2635.702 (“Use of public office for private gain”) have all been among our most-visited individual pages. Over the same three weeks of 2016, for example, there were no individual statutes or regs among the thirty most-viewed pages, while all five listed above cracked the top twenty this year.   

This is our starting point for an article meant to be the next installment in our occasional series spotlighting how traffic arrives to our site. In May of 2016, for example, we wrote about hyperlinks from news websites. In October, we put the spotlight on social media. So, what’s new this time?

Whether it’s presenting the statutes and regs, explaining legal concepts in Wex, or writing about the Supreme Court in our Bulletin Previews or over on our Oyez website, we always strive to be viewpoint neutral above all else. We want to be the place where folks of any political stripe–or with no stripes whatsoever–can come and read what the law actually says for themselves. And for the past few weeks, that is exactly what’s been happening.  

On these sections of primary law in particular, we’ve seen on balance a lower percentage of traffic coming to us from search engines and a higher percentage from social media and other web traffic. Sure, there’s the New York Times, the Washington Post, Business Insider, and US News in the normal spots as high-volume referrers of traffic. And we always see a lot of links (and traffic) from and  But, in those same materials during the same time, there is an awful lot of traffic from Fox News, The National Review,, and For folks who are unfamiliar with and unlikely to visit some of those sites, we’re also seeing traffic from,, and  

We see that and we think we’re doing something right. (A lot of things, actually, but we’re trying to stay humble.) People (A LOT of people)–regardless of how they think or how they vote–are reading about laws discussed on their favorite news websites and coming straight from there to our website to read those law for themselves. We think that’s good. We think that’s important. We love that you do, too, and that you support us in our efforts.   

Lastly, no discussion of recent hyperlinks is complete without noting that some of our Bulletin Preview students were particularly excited to see this snarky shout-out to us as a “super untrustworthy source” on GQ’s website. On one hand, the 181 referred users coming from that link would otherwise be insufficient to warrant mention in this article. On the other hand, we feel we should mention it because we always assumed our Dean would make Gentleman’s Quarterly before we did.  🙂

LII Donor Profile: Paul Manson, Researcher at Portland State University’s Center for Public Service

The LII served over 30 million unique visitors last year, but back in 1992 that number was a lot smaller. Paul Manson, now a researcher at Portland State University’s Center for Public Service, is one of a few who has read our publications from the very beginning. When he recently showed his appreciation by making a donation, we were curious to know more about what he does and why he has found the LII useful these 25 years. So we asked him!

Can you share with us a little bit about Portland State’s Center for Public Service, and what your role is there?

The Center for Public Service at Portland State University is a community oriented center that provides technical services and training to federal, tribal, state and local governments. It also has a strong international series of programs. The Center connects practitioners with the academic and research efforts of the Hatfield School of Government here at PSU. I am a researcher with the Center and work with partners in agencies and NGO’s to help through applied research. In my work I try to bridge the science and policy communities to help craft community tools to prepare for an uncertain future. My focus is on disaster and resilience research – though I also support our elections research and leadership development programs. Projects I have led include developing planning tools for coastal communities facing tsunami and earthquake risks.

What would you say influenced your interest in this kind of research?

I grew up in coastal communities in Alaska and the lasting effects of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake were still visible. This was the largest earthquake the United States has experienced. Sunken forests, images of crumbled downtown buildings, and remnants of damaged homes remain today. I was always intrigued by the science behind these events, but I also enjoyed the policy side of the discussions. How do we interpret science and integrate it into decision making? How do we understand uncertainty or rare events when we face so many pressing needs in society? This brought me to my research at the nexus of science and policy – trying to span to two spheres.

What do you find most challenging about your work? Most rewarding?

Today our efforts to make our communities healthy and prosperous face so many challenges. We live in an era of economic uncertainties, challenges from climate change, and a growing distrust in government. With declining public revenues, increasing public costs, and many vulnerable communities – we face a concerning future. I am optimistic that we can rebuild faith in how communities can come together to become better together. But we face many political, cultural and economic challenges to get there.

Thank you for your recent donation to the LII. Could you tell us why you made that donation?

I should have given sooner considering how long I’ve been a reader! But I was motivated recently by the mix of political news and changes on the Supreme Court. If ever there was a need for independent resources to make sense of the legal and political landscape – it’s now!

When did you first learn about the LII, and in what ways has it been useful to you since then?

As a high school student in Alaska I became interested in the law – maybe I can blame all the television procedural dramas focused on law firms in the 1990’s. But a fellow student suggested I join him at an organization focused on helping students learn about the law and also help provide a valuable service of youth in my community. This organization was Anchorage Youth Court (AYC), and it provides a diversion for juvenile criminal defendants in Anchorage, Alaska. The youth court processes their cases from charging to trial to sentencing. All of the officers of the court are high school students, the juries are also students. AYC provides the training for high school students to be the lawyers and judges in the process. Through that I found LII to learn more about constitutional and criminal case law (and that was early internet years for all of us!) During high school I interned for the Alaska Court System and Alaska Attorney General’s office. I continued to actively rely on LII to be informed.

Ultimately I decided against a career in law directly – but now over 20 (!) years later I still read LII and appreciate the emails. I have since returned to academia in public administration and I still suggest colleagues and students follow LII to stay atop of the news.

Can you recall any specific situations where finding legal information at the LII had an important or interesting impact?

To be honest – the main value for me with LII is first the email bulletin and previews. I am able to peruse the issues and just be a little more aware. My main areas of interest are administrative law and environmental law. But I always scan through and often become curious about some other case that is in a new part of law for me. I’ve even been known to post previews on Facebook as a law nerd…

What legal information would you most like to see published that is currently unavailable or hard to find?

Because of the work and research I do, administrative rule making is my primary area of interest. I subscribe to the Federal Register table of contents email service, but there are many issues to follow and the rulemaking process can be done in fits and starts making monitoring harder. [editor’s note: stay tuned!]

If you were to tell others about the LII and why it’s worth supporting, what would you say?

It is remarkable that LII has been going for so long – other internet startups can’t claim such a long track record! But I recommend it to new students here at Portland State who come into political science or public administration. I think the recent news about the Oyez project coming to LII is exciting and also requires us to continue supporting the Institute. I hope others join me in making sure this part of our legal education and knowledge continues growing into the future!

It was a pleasure getting to know yet another incredible donor that helps contribute to what the LII is today. Not a subscriber? Stay informed with us!

Brian Hughes retires

The first words Brian Hughes ever said to me were, “Hello, I’m Brian Hughes”. He was starting work on a project I was doing with the Harvard Law School Library. He has greeted me that way every time I’ve seen him, for nearly two decades. I later found out from his wife that those are the first words she hears from him each and every morning.

The Harvard project was called LEDA, and Brian was to be its principal programmer. The idea was — in 1999 — to build an institutional repository for working papers and other gray literature, one that could operate across multiple institutions. Harvard’s law-library director had proposed it, I was a consultant on it, and Emory and Duke were on board to participate. It was pretty advanced stuff, and full of a million details of metadata, document conversion, foreign-language support, and so on. Brian was exactly the kind of careful soul needed to compensate for my more cowboy-ish approach, and it was a good collaboration. Unfortunately, it was also more than a decade ahead of its time.Though quite viable, it could not survive a storm of inattention from academic law libraries.

But Brian is quite a find, and we brought him here to work with us at the LII. For over 17 years, we have been glad we did. He built our first shell around the CFR, a raft of software to support donations, and a lot of the software that supports our publishing of Supreme Court opinions and the LII Bulletin. Linguist by training, librarian and programmer by experience, Brian is, at the end of the day, a craftsman.  

Like a lot of craftsmen, Brian has eccentricities. It is hard to know how many are real and how many are jokes that he is playing on the world. He insists that plants with variegated foliage have no reason to live. He claims an exaggerated fear of deer. He labels his spice jars with the Latin names of the plants. I once saw him order rice pudding in a restaurant, only to greet its arrival by saying, “But this has rice in it”. He has the finest collection of 20th century classical music I’ve ever seen, and he is a fierce advocate for women composers. He is one of only two people that I have ever heard use the word “hosie”, which is evidently some kind of weird New England slang for “call dibs on”. He knows more about trees than anybody.

Brian retired at the end of January. He was the second-longest-running employee at the LII after myself, and a big part of its soul. We are going to miss him, out among the trees, warily looking for deer.